[VIEWPOINT]Provide better subsidies for internsIt is the height of the employment season. Universities are actively holding presentations on businesses and their recruitment plans in line with new employment announcements, and students preparing for employment are also moving fast. The largest number ever ― around 118,000 applicants ― competed at the examination for the employment of civil servants in Seoul city yesterday, making the rate of likely success 100 to 1. As was said by Max Weber, public service is a “vocation” and it requires a sense of being “summoned” to be a civil servant. It is good for the future of Korea, therefore, that there are so many young people with the spirit of sacrifice, service and devotion for their people and country. However, we also feel distress along with the good feeling. We feel sorry for the 117,000 or so applicants who will fail the exam.
According to statistics on employment announced by the National Statistical Office on Sept. 13, our unemployment rate in September was 3.5 percent; lower than in the United States (4 to 5 percent) and Germany (8 to 9 percent) and around the same as Japan’s (3 to 4 percent). There is an optimistic view that a 3 to 4 percent unemployment rate is almost complete employment. It can be said that the employment situation has improved greatly if we compare the situation today to right after the foreign exchange crisis of 1998, when the unemployment rate leapt to 8.8 percent (February, 1999).
Despite such National Statistical Office figures, however, the barriers to employment that university students have to confront seem to be getting higher every year. This is because, firstly, the standard of measuring unemployment rates is different from reality. The purpose of unemployment statistics for the statistical office is in “grasping the object of employment policy for effective use of labor and providing basic data for policy making.” Therefore, only people who can be objects of employment policy, that is, those who actively look for employment, are considered as unemployed. Those who gave up employment are categorized as an economically non-active population.
Also, from the viewpoint of supply and demand of labor, big business corporations, in order to secure the number of employees they need, recruited large number of university graduates around the time of graduation in the past. Since the foreign exchange crisis of 1998, however, employing people anytime there is a necessity has become popular so that businesses can have flexibility in the management of their employees.
When businesses recruit employees, they prefer to employ those with work experience in the field, who can contribute right away, rather than fresh new recruits. This change in the pattern of employment has also played its part in making youth unemployment seem like a bigger problem. According to data provided by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the ratio between new recruits fresh out of university and those with work experience was 65 percent versus 35 percent in 1996, but the ratio changed to 26 percent versus 74 percent after the economic crisis in 1998.
The supply of new employment ― that is, easing youth unemployment ― is a must to keep our society healthy. The current employment method of employing mainly experienced workers may be helpful in solving short-term problems and attaining short-term goals, but without an inflow of new workers and development of human resources, continued development of businesses becomes difficult. From a macro-economic point of view, the inflow of new workers is also urgent for activating the economy and entering into a positive cycle of investment and consumption.
To solve the problem, the government must concentrate more on creating job opportunities in private sectors rather than making temporary public service employment opportunities and supporting job training and education. If private sector businesses are finding it difficult to offer more open positions due to the difficult business environment, a solution could be found in revising and improving the current systems of providing subsidies for the employment of interns. In other words, instead of carrying out the re-education of unemployed youths according to government standard job training or the education commission, the government can provide each corporation with effective manpower development programs by actively supporting its own internship systems that businesses actually want. By including big corporations that were not supported by the government until now, the government will surely lure employment seekers actively. The doors of business corporations that youths want to work at should be opened wider.
* The writer is a professor of sociology at Soongsil University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Bae Young